Monthly Archives: May 2014

Review: Somewhere A Master

Somewhere A Master
Somewhere A Master by Elie Wiesel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating collection of stories of the Hasidic sages, concerning their friendships, disciples, and rivalries, and the lessons they have to teach all of us even today. Somewhere A Master touched me deeply in its discussion of the Hasid’s need to counter the tragedy and sadness in the world with love and light and devotion. These learned men were the leaders of their communities, who did what they could to improve the lives of their followers in what was a very dark time for Jews.

Could we make this world a better place, here and now, if all of us committed to spread a little more joy, a little more light, in our own corner of it? The masters invite us to take up the challenge.

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Review: Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con

Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest Con
Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con by Guy Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The tale of Sam Israel, who founded a hedge fund that he turned into a Ponzi scheme to avoid admitting failure, is truly stranger than fiction. Israel, the scion of a wealthy New Orleans family, falls under the spell of trading on Wall Street and becomes a heavy drug user. Under the spell of “masters of the universe” self-aggrandizement, he bites off considerably more than he can chew in starting his own hedge fund and resorts to fraud to hide his mistakes. But that’s not close to being the craziest part of this story.

Desperate to generate more income for his failing hedge fund, Israel falls prey to a mysterious figure claiming to be an ex-CIA operative. This man, Robert Booth Nichols, convinces Israel to invest over $100 million of his clients’ money in a secret “shadow market” which Nichols claims the CIA uses to prop up foreign governments and that thirteen families use to rule the world. Before Israel knows what’s happening, he’s jetting to foreign locales, meeting with shady bankers and real or presumed members of the aristocracy, as well as dodging enemy agents trying to kill him.

Either that or there’s no such thing as a shadow market or 13 ruling families, and Israel just fell for a long con perpetrated by a smooth-talking conspiracy theorist and his buddies.

This book is absolutely engrossing. Highly recommended.

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Review: A Twisted Faith: A Minister’s Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed a Church

A Twisted Faith: A Minister's Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed a Church
A Twisted Faith: A Minister’s Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed a Church by Gregg Olsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the riveting tale of a tight-knit church community that unraveled over the course of a few years. Against the backdrop of a fight over leadership of Christ Community Church on Bainbridge Island, Washington, one man, youth pastor Nick Hacheney, would commit deception, adultery, and eventually murder. By telling fantastic tales of prophecies and apocalyptic spiritual battles, Hacheney conned the women whose marriages he was supposed to be saving through counseling into sleeping with him; at Hacheney’s insistence, the women neglected their husbands and children and even drugged their babies in order to spend more time with him.

Hacheney eventually settled on one vulnerable congregant he wanted to settle down with; there was only one complication–his wife Dawn. After Nick described a “prophecy” about her death, Dawn perished in a mysterious fire the day after Christmas, 1997 while Nick was out hunting. It looks as though Nick might get away with murdering Dawn, until one woman’s emotional pain over her relationship with Nick lead her to seek help.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good true-crime story. This one is truly stranger than fiction.

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Review: Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages

Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages
Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really miss being able to consume dairy products, so I thought it might be fun to read Milk. However, reading it just left a bad taste in my mouth. This has nothing to do with the recipes, which seem well researched and tested with relatively easy-to-follow instructions. The author’s food snobbery really got to me after a while, though; surely it would have been sufficient for her to state once, clearly, before every recipe section that she thinks it would be better to use milk that is unhomogenized and, if possible, pasteurized slowly at a lower temperature, rather than saying it in every recipe.

Should you be tempted to undertake preparing some of the recipes in this book, you should be aware that they are most emphatically not for the budget-conscious cook. You’ll need to buy, beg, borrow, or steal a double boiler, stockpots of varying sizes, rennet tablets, the aforementioned artisanal milk in udder-busting quantities, the “correct” kind of cheesecloth (not the kind you can get in the grocery store–the author says this repeatedly as well–and something called a Flame Tamer to keep your dairy delights at the proper temperature. It all sounds lovely, but so expensive!

That being said, the book is an interesting read, and I do recommend it to anyone who’s curious about the cultural history of milk and can afford to try the recipes.

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